While returning to the harbor over the weekend, I spotted a local fisherman and got an idea for a good story. With this in mind, I called one of my old school friends, Tom Pearson of Pearson's Port, at 100 E. Coast Hwy.
Tom and I went to school together in Huntington Beach while Tom's father Roy was opening Pearson's Port in 1971. Pearson's Port, in my opinion, is our harbor's best fish market. Going on its third generation, the market holds the spirit of a true American family business.
I do not know of anyone else who has spent more time on the water than Tom Pearson. If my simple calculations are correct, he has spent 10,500 days on the water over the past 40 years.
When I asked how many local fishermen we have in the harbor, he replied, "There are about 20 of us. The commercial industry is a close-knit family. We have the occasional 'buoy fisherman,' which is slang for noob, that needs to be reminded of the rules from time to time. But you would be surprised on how close we all are."
I never noticed many local commercial fishermen at the yacht club bar. I asked him if this group ever gathered anywhere in town.
"Most of the time we are on the water five days a week, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and we still need to make time to maintain our equipment and boats," Tom said. "So, I'd have to say our meeting place is on the fishing grounds."
When I asked Tom which VHF radio channel he and the local fishermen used, our signal broke up and I did not get a clear answer.
"Most of the time I have the stereo on and don't talk to anyone else," he replied. "I will let my buddies know, in the day boats, if I see any whales or dolphins. As a whole we all try to help each other out."
Aboard his boat, the Harvest, a 26-foot Radon, he fishes for lobster, crab, shrimp and whatever else his reels can catch. He has 250 traps, and this year he was very lucky to lose only about 15 traps. Each piece is worth about $100.
He still recalls the storms of 1983 when he lost all his gear.
I then asked him what was the strangest thing he ever caught.
"I have brought up some pretty strange stuff, but the 'wolf eels' are still at the top of my list," he said.
I asked him: Is it a good life?
Yes, it's a good life and it's still exciting, he replied. But, he added, he's now too old to snorkel.
I also asked him about how the future looked.
"Funny you should ask that, Len," he replied. "We have a major obstacle in front of us now with the Marine Life Protection Act, or MLPA, with the South Coast region going into effect on Jan. 1 , 2012. This law is really going to bunch us up and put a lot of us out of business."
Pearson's Port is old Newport. It's like going to Basin Shipyard and meeting the New family, going to Island Marine fuel and meeting the Beeks or the Hills at their fuel dock.
Be a good American and check out Pearson's Port. Meet the Pearson family, tell your friends about it and support our local fishermen.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.